Planning vs. Spontaneous Community

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I often meet Christians who long for the faith community of their college days. They look back, remembering the hundreds of late-night hours when they moved effortlessly from dinner to serious conversation to video games, to a second dinner to more conversation and video games. And all it took to sustain this intimacy was a Five-Hour Energy and a lax attendance policy at your early morning class. Since college, though, they can't remember the last time they spent extended time with friends. With full-time jobs and over-time kids, quality time feels rare.

Many of these Christians struggle to find a faith community which matches the vitality of their college church. Is there no church as "on-fire" as my college church? Do I need a new small group? With the collapse of community, there's often a collapse in personal spiritual disciplines. Why can't I read the Bible and pray like I used to? Why don't sermons impact me as they once did?

What all of us have to learn is that Christian life looks different at every stage. Community that used to begin with just a text messag now requires seven emails and a Day Planner. Long conversations that used to meander on into the night are now held in three-minute bursts between our three-year old's interruptions. Don't worry, though. This is normal. Just because it's more difficult doesn't mean it's less authentic.

In Everyday Church, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis explain the importance of planning for community when life is busy.

Everyday pastoral care is not the same as spontaneous pastoral care. Do not idolize the spontaneous over the scheduled. People can have rather romantic notions of community as a spontaneous activity in which people hang out without much planning. Somehow community doesn't count in this view unless it is spontaneous. But there is nothing especially virtuous about spontaneity. When people have busy work lives, community only happens if people plan to meet together. You may have to plan to do everyday pastoral care.

What are some ways you plan for community?